NBC6 Responds: How to shop at a zero


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Oct 14, 2023

NBC6 Responds: How to shop at a zero

Millions of tons of plastic products end up in landfills in the United States

Millions of tons of plastic products end up in landfills in the United States each year, where they are often incinerated because they cannot be recycled for various reasons.

The World Health Organization is calling for a reduction in plastic pollution and investigating the potential impact microplastics in the environment have on human health.

Every day, there are new ways to reduce the number of plastic containers and bags we send to landfills.

An average American family of four generates about 20 pounds of garbage a day. According to the company that handles most of our recycling, 30% of what we send them ends up in the trash due to contamination, yet we continue to buy single-use plastic containers.

Pamela Barrera is the co-owner of Verde Market, a market where you can bring your empty containers and refill them instead of buying a new container.

"The process of creating all these containers that we throw away, which is single use…is ridiculous," she said, adding "it doesn't matter if it's plastic, glass."

Even if it has a label, she does not care. As long as you keep your containers, and re-use them, that is what matters.

All of this is a part of a global movement known as zero-waste shopping with refilleries popping up around the country, including Verde Market which has three South Florida locations.

NBC6 Responds went on a zero-waste shopping trip. The first stop: Verde Market.

The process is quite simple. You start by bringing your own containers and weighing them. The weight is later recorded on an electronic chip and deducted at check-out. Then, one can fill the containers they’ve brought with anything from laundry detergent to fabric softener, even freshly made almond butter.

"All the household products are plant based because all that water is going to go into the ocean or it's going to come back to you somehow," Barrera said.

At Sprouts Farmers Market as well as at Whole Foods, you can also bring your bags and containers to buy items in bulk.

Similar to Verde Market, you start by asking a cashier to weigh your containers before going shopping. Then you go fill them in the bulk section with anything you choose and jot down the item number. They have everything, including coffee, sugar, baking products and spices.

We spoke with Cristina Escalante who is the store manager of Sprouts Farmers Market in Miramar.

"Our bulk department has this great section where it's dedicated to just a ton of spices for you to measure out. It's like you need a teaspoon, you just take a teaspoon. If you want a whole pound of something, you take a pound. And so, you're not only saving money, but you're reducing that waste," Escalante said.

For example, in the produce area one has the chance to reduce waste by bringing your bags and buying just what you need. Nevertheless, bringing your reusable bags is something you can also do at any farmer's market, farm stand and other supermarkets. At Sprout, aside from reducing the use of plastics, they reduce food waste.

"We partner with feeding South Florida locally and Sprouts partners with over 400 organizations coast to coast that fight hunger across the across the country," Escalante said. "Just since 2020, since our grand opening, we've actually donated 70,000 pound of unsold food here."

Other ways to reduce what we send to landfills is to place our organic waste or food scraps in compost bins. You can also eliminate single-use water bottles by filling up jugs at home and when you buy items on sites like Amazon, ask that they be sent to you in their original packages and in fewer shipments.

These sites can help you locate a zero-waste store near you:

Where to Shop: A State-by-State Zero Waste Grocery Guide — Litterless